Booknotized

A place to think, reflect, and talk (mostly to myself) about books I love…and a few that I don't.

Influential Book of the Month: The Iliad by Homer January 11, 2012

 

 

The Iliad by Homer

 

Written around the 8th Century BC, this epic Greek poem about the
Trojan war has influenced countless classic authors with its tragic
and quintessential tale of hubris, love, and war. With hunks like Achilles
and Odysseus, hotties like Helen, and powers that be like Ares, Apollo,
and Aphrodite, it’s no wonder this book is also prime inspriation for
today’s YA otherworldly writers.

 

Known Progeny:

Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney
Nobody’s Princess and Nobody’s Prize by Esther M. Friesner
Troy by Adele Geras
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
The Memoirs of Helen of Troy by Amanda Elyot
Achilles: A Novel by Elizabeth Cook
 
 
 
 
 

Check out the IBoTM page for more titles that have helped shape today’s YA landscape.

 

Know of another bit of offspring from any of these books that isn’t listed here? Email it to me at booknotized[at]gmail[dot]com!

 

 

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer January 9, 2012

 
Publisher: Macmillan
Series: Lunar Chronicles (Book 1)
Age Group: YA (totally clean)
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Pages: 400
Source: NetGalley and Giveaway from Amanda at Diary of a Book Addict
Genre: Scifi + Post-Apocalyptic
Rating Breakdown: Idea 5+★; Execution 3+★
 

★★★★

Cinder is a cyborg—which in her society means barely human. Somewhere in a past she can’t remember, there was an accident that left her parentless and a surgery that gave her a foot and a hand she doesn’t want, but can’t live without. Her one glimmer of hope came in the form of a scientist from the Eastern commonwealth—a conglomerate of countries united by the emperor sometime after the devastating WW4—but was dashed before she even know about him, when he died of the Letumosis epidemic.
 
Now, stuck with a stepmother who hates her, working as a mechanic to pay bills that aren’t her own, in a country swept by plague and threatened by war from the psychotic Lunar queen, Cinder only dreams of escape.
 
And, then the Prince walks in.
 
__________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
First off, you must read this book. It’s great. You’ll enjoy it, I guarantee. It’s overall tightly written, fast paced, and unique. I was drawn to the cover at first sight and couldn’t put it down!
 
But, as a connoisseur (hah!) I am truly on the fence about it. As a reviewer, I feel compelled to tell the whole truth and nothing but. So, while on the one hand it was a thrilling read, it has its flaws.
 
I love the concept—very original. Instead of a technologically backwards future of the sort we’re used to seeing in today’s post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels, this one is very techno-savvy. Reminded me of Westerfeld’s The Uglies in its tenor. Hover cars are all the rage, and human beings survive historically fatal or utterly disfiguring injuries because of extreme advances in surgical prosthetics.
 
Fairly logically-advanced versions of the internet, computers, and televisions are the main form of communication and entertainment, which helps tie nicely into the present-day world.
 
The commonwealth, and its emperor are situated in Asia, in a city called New Beijing, making this the second book to allude to fears of China’s rise to world power. However, unlike some, this book doesn’t see that as a bad thing. The Emperor and his family are just, fair rulers, and peacefully cohabitate with other ruling bodies—except those on the moon (yup!).
 
Instead of climate change, and/or oil shortage being the cause of the apocalypse (both of which have been almost overdone these days…), it’s international conflict that spawned both destruction and peace between Earthen countries. Unchecked greed and power hunger is the reason for the latest threat from the mutated inhabitants of the moon—and their mind-controlling queen.
 
Up until that point, everything was great. But, the mind control was where the book started to get under my skin. I found it to be too convenient, cheesy, inconsistently implemented, and ineffective.
 
Similarly, though I appreciated the attempt to align this with the original Cinderella story, a few of the plot elements at the end were too forced. This is a problem I have with a lot of fairytale re-imaginings: they don’t seem to realize you can pick and choose which elements to include—and even then, you can bend them a little to fit your setting. This book tried too hard to get them all in…and didn’t bend or wield them skillfully enough to fit. For one, the “carriage” (an old rusted out automobile) was a potentially really intriguing twist that just didn’t deliver and faded out as abruptly as it appeared. More importantly, however, the ball was just totally out of place, in my mind. Not only was it a virtual impossibility (all the citizens of one major city invited at once?), but then, why such an outdated ritual in full 17th century style was the one tradition that held over from the old to such a futuristic world wasn’t explained. It wasn’t the right scene for the confrontation, and as a result, the final scenes were just not cathartic enough.
 
As for characters, the evil queen wasn’t very believable—her dialogue made me chuckle at some points. And, last but not least, Cinder just wasn’t a decisive or confident enough character for my taste. Why she waited so long to work on the Prince’s robot—meanwhile the dropped hints and reminders of its import were abundant—I just couldn’t figure out. And her two obsessions—her own imperfection and escape—were overdone to the point of threatening the story not only plot-wise, but overall by making her slightly annoying.
 
That said, however, I really enjoyed the concept and the world, and will definitely be looking out for book 2—which I hope will benefit from its freedom from the original story and license to do fantastic things with a fantastic concept.

 

Working With the 100: An Epic Adventure

 
Now, I know how it looks. I’ve been fairly quiet over the last two months.
 
But that’s only because I’ve been consulting on what was probably the most exciting project ever: Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature.

I knew when I took the job that it might mean I had to stay quiet on the blogging front for a little while, but, I mean, who could turn it down?
 
For several solid months, I got to spend my nights and weekends reading, thinking and writing about my absolute favorite topic—books for young people (which I would have been doing anyway…shhh!)—as I worked to curate the list with the expert contributors and amazing editorial team at P&C.
 
In short, I had a blast.
 
While this took up most of my extracurricular reading time, I also couldn’t really post about it: it was TOP secret. Well, at least until the website went live! (At which point I collapsed into a heap and was transported unconsciously to the land of turkey and gift wrap.) Hence my (unusually) un-loquacious state.
 
Despite my tardiness in posting, however, I couldn’t be prouder of the final product. Not only does it cover 100 of the best books written and in print for Ages 0-12 (culled from a list of over 500 titles suggested by literacy experts, Scholastic editors, and parents!), but the website is a TON of fun to play with!
 

Check out the interactive website where 10 books will be revealed every week in the countdown to the mysterious #1!

Be sure to investigate all the widgets and enter for a chance to win a copy of 1 of the titles every week.

 

 
 
You can sort by Fiction/Nonfiction (and fiction type), Age Group, Award Winners, and more. Once you have your list, click on the book covers to find out more about each individual title.
 

 
As an added treat, the magazine editors and I chose 10 books throughout the list that grabbed our attention for various reasons, such as “Best Bedtime Book,” “Most Exciting Ending,” and “Favorite Fantastic Setting.”
 
Click here to find out more about the 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature: why we did it, how we did it, what’s up next, and more.
 
Then, be sure to subscribe to P&C asap if you want to receive a print copy of the March issue that will contain all of this and more.
 
 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * GIVEAWAY! * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

 
Now, I want to hear from you. Let me know: what books would YOU have put on the list? What would have been your number one? Be sure to include your email address with your answer! (Or leave a comment on this post.) One lucky winner will get a copy of one of the books from the list in their age group of choice. (Book to be supplied by moi, and this giveaway is in no way affiliated with Parent & Child.)
 

 

 

 

Monday Reads: What are you reading in 2012?!

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — Booknotized @ 3:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

Everybody needs a little holiday break…

With family 900+ miles away, that’s often imperative for me. And, where they live, internet access is sometimes sketchy.

But I have been ITCHING to post all the reviews that are drafted out in my trusty notebook. I’ve also had the unique opportunity to
read some titles for work lately that I’ve had on my list for YEARS, so you’ll see a few classic names mixed in with the old.

Here’s what my week in reading has been looking like – a preview of what’s to come!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme by the lovely Shelia at Book Journey.

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? December 12, 2011

Filed under: Books — Booknotized @ 1:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As you may have noticed, I’m not quite as active as usual this last couple of weeks.
Due to an overabundance of work, I have had to take a small sabbatical from blogging (which I love!)
to do money-making (which I also enjoy, but is more of a must).

Ironically, this overload hasn’t dampened my reading spirit in the least, so upcoming are some exciting
posts about the following books – one of which is to be published Jan 3!

I thought the fun, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme by the lovely
Shelia at Book Journey would be a fun way to catch up.

Watch out for posts on all of these in the new few weeks.

 

Calling All Cassandra Clare Fans –> Clockwork Prince #Giveaway! November 23, 2011

 
 

At BEA this past May, I accidentally got into a line for a very special set of items.

I didn’t realize until after I just what I had stumbled upon:

 

Instead of keeping them to myself (which wouldn’t be very nice!), I’d like to share the love.

Clockwork Prince – vol. 2 of Cassandra Clare’s much-anticipated Infernal Devices series – is out in just two weeks!

 

I know that some of you are just itching to read chatpers 1-3 ahead of the game…
and to proclaim your affection by sporting this collector’s t-shirt.

(You know who you are!)



 
 

Priority mail shipping on this to any state in the USA (sorry, no international), so you’ll be sure to have it right away.

Here’s how it works:

1. Like Booknotized on Facebook = 1 point
2. Follow Booknotized on Twitter = 1 point
3. Tweet about it (be sure to tweet @Booknotized) = 1 point for every tweet
4. Share Booknotized or this giveaway on Facebook = 1 point for every share
4. Subscribe to Booknotized via email (see right sidebar) = 1 point
5. Find a book review on this site that you enjoy and leave a thoughtful comment = 1 point for every comment
6. Leave a comment on this post = 1 point

 

Tally up of your points and email them to me along with your twitter/facebook handles so I can track your points.

 

booknotized[at]gmail.com

 

Ends at noon on Monday the 28th.

 

I’ll announce the winner via Twitter that evening and contact them via email.

 

Have fun!

 

 

Halloween, YA Lit Style November 2, 2011

 
It was Halloween. I wanted something that would stand out without a LOT of work. (As much as I love dressing up, I just didn’t have time to dedicate this year.) I also wanted to go with a literary theme, you know, for obvious reasons.
 
My requirements were simple: I wanted to be a character that I 1) really liked 2) from a well-written book 3) of which I was a big fan. (A costume is a big commitment!) I was actually in the middle of a very bad book, which made it all that much more important to choose a good one.
 
Now, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Laini Taylor. So, when the idea hit me, I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t thought of it sooner:
 
What better way to do all of the above than with blue hair?
 

Here’s my take on Karou, from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
 
(Sorry for all of the narcissistic head shots. The top of the wig was atrocious, so the only good photos were close-ups!)
 
(Click here for my review of the book.)

 
 
 

I combed the book for references to her appearance, clothes, jewelry, scars, tattoos, and weapons. Then, I manufactured what I could and bought what I couldn’t. The Chinese crescent-moon blade was a last-minute, at-my-desk, cutting-cardboard-like-mad addition. I had an artistic coworker of mine help with the hamsas on my palms.

 

The only things that I thought of but didn’t do were acquire a sketchbook/artists portfolio fast enough, and create a t-shirt that said “I met an angel in Morocco and all I got were these lousy scars.” It had just snowed here in the city, and I just wasn’t up to short sleeves.

 

I admit, it’s not quite Hollywood-grade. But, as you can see, I had quite a bit of fun getting into character…though I never have been good at maintaining a serious face while acting silly. I guess that’s on my to-do list for next year.

 

Ingredients for a kickin’ Karou costume:

1 bright blue wig
1 multi-string necklace of random beads
1 black sharpie + 1 artistic friend = 2 hamsas
sweater, jeans, boots, coat, and scarf
wicked (fake) crescent-shaped knife
artist’s portfolio or sketchbook
too much blue eyeshadow
awesome fake eyelashes (just don’t leave them at home, like I did!)
1 “YA Saves” button for your lapel

 

 

Books, Authors, and Crazy, Crazy Fans October 31, 2011

 

The last month has been a whirlwind of book-related activity. High time I sat down to post about it!

First things first…

 
In reality, it all started back in February or March, when my good friend Shanella said, “Hey, you want to go to Hogwarts?” And I said, “Are you KIDDING? Of COURSE I do.”
 

There was only one small problem: we hadn’t received our invitation letters…yet.

We made our reservations and patiently waited. And waited. And waited.

 

With only 3 days to go, I realized we were going to have to take matters into our own hands. So, I found Dumbledore’s email address and sure enough, he said there had been an owl strike – something to do with Weasley’s Wildfire Whiz-bangs – and he had them faxed over straight away.

 

Since toting a faxed invitation around with us would have been totally lame, we had them put on t-shirts instead.

 

 

We were the coolest kids in school.

(No, seriously, 18 – or was it 16? – different people stopped us in the middle of the park to ask where we’d gotten them.
Others simply took pictures without our permission. It felt good to be popular.)

 

Hogwarts itself, however, was WAY cooler.
(If you don’t see the slide show below, you can click to go to my Hogwarts photo album instead.)

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 


 

 

Just before we left for Hogwarts, we went to see Maureen Johnson at Books of Wonder, which was downright awesome. It was the release of her new book The Name of the Star, a Jack the Ripper ghost story set in modern England. There were even 2 Jacks present. Spooky!

 

Maureen’s very fun in person…which one would probably gather from her not-in-person outlets, such as her Twitter @maureenjohnson. Check her out. You’ll see what I mean. If you’re familiar with the #yasaves hashtag, then you already know who I’m talking about. *wink*

 

 

(Sorry the pic is so grainy. I left my camera at home that day…and well, let’s just say my iPhone is a “circa babyboomers” gen.)

 

 

Finally, just last week there was the amazing Fantastic Fiction event at the self-same Books of Wonder  (best bookstore in the city!), starring authors Scott Westerfeld, Maryrose Wood, Jeff Hirsch, Sarah Beth Durst, Jon Skovron, Gabrielle Zevin, and Alison Goodman.

 

I snagged copies of Westerfeld’s and Hirsch’s books, and then some photo ops with the gents while they were signing.

 

 

 

 

Lost in conversation with Scott (sorry, may I call you Scott?), I failed to noticed that Shanella was trying to get my attention and take a picture.
 
Thankfully, she was persistent.
 

 

Only bad thing about going to these AWESOME author events?
TBR list now has 3 new additions . . .

 

Up next: Halloween, YA Lit style. (Hint: think ultramarine)

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? October 24, 2011

Filed under: Books,Random Things to Say — Booknotized @ 3:41 pm
Tags: ,

 

Unlike some of my fellow bloggers (of whom I am very jealous!), I am utterly incapable
of reading more than one book at at time, so the “up next” wishlist is probably just that.

 

Oh well, “we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams” (-Arthur O’Shaughnessy).

 

This meme is hosted by:
Book Journey 

 

My Personal Bookprint October 22, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, as part of a side project I’ve been working on with a parenting magazine, I happened to be collecting data from a website that prompted me to stop and think about the 5 books that have influenced me most, or my “bookprint,” as it was called.

This will be easy, I thought. So, I settled in to my couch cushion, and began what I assumed would be a quick process of popping in a few titles and moving on. One hour and one sleeping leg later, This is really hard, was going through my mind. And, I think most people who have read consistently throughout their lives will probably have a similar experience.

However, it was totally worthwhile. So worthwhile, in fact, that I wanted to take a few minutes to share my results and encourage others to do the same. What the exercise did was twofold: it not only made me stop and remember all of the wonderful books that have made an impact on me throughout my life – those little explosions of awe that were bright enough to still be echoing around in my mind – but also caused me to see myself somewhat differently, to understand myself better. You see, the process of elimination (because you can only have 5), really made me stop and think if I’m being honest, truly, transparently honest, then which books, which reading experiences really define me? and why?

Some of the results were expected. A couple of them surprised even me.

What didn’t surprise me all that much was that all of the books that ended up on the final list were ones I read as a young person (before 15). After all, that’s when we’re most impressionable, it’s when the basis of our personalities, outlook, and worldview are formed. It’s also an era of books I have yet to let go…and may never. I am what I read, then and now.

 
The website was Scholastic’s You Are What You Read. It’s a part of their “Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life” campaign, which is in turn coupled to their very unique Reading Bill of Rights document. “Literacy – the ability to read, write and understand – is the birthright of every child in the world…” meant a lot to me before this little exercise. But, having had the opportunity to think more deeply about how books have shaped who I am today, I find it now means a whole lot more.
 
Think about it: Who would we (as human beings) be without books?
 
 

Here’s my bookprint. What’s yours?

 
1) The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter books (my own love of them and their phenomenal success worldwide) inspired me to think – and write my masters thesis – about the ways in which literary society is forming and reforming around and apart from postmodernism, expanding into something new. I think that the HP books have shaped our culture irrevocably, and for the better. They’ve opened us back up to “positive possibility” (as opposed to the “negative possibility” promoted by much of theory in the last 100 years) and that is saying something.

 
2) Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I saw (and subsequently developed) a lot of myself in Anne: using big words, being feisty and independent, doing everything “to the max,” and loving wholeheartedly. She helped me understand that those were good qualities, and that I should always be true to that piece of my nature.

On a humorous side note, I asked for the films for Christmas last year, and got Anne of Avonlea from my sister. We (my sisters, brother, husband, and I) stayed up all night watching the 4-hr, 2-disc classic, most of which I was convinced my husband would miss. I just didn’t think it was his kind of thing. However, when the closing credits came on, he was still wide awake, staring thoughtfully at the screen. Then, he turns slowly toward me and studies my face for a moment before saying, “Hhh. Now I understand you,” and stands up to head to bed.

 
3) Gone With the Wind by Margarett Mitchell

This was actually a last-minute substitution. It bumped The Chronicles of Narnia (*gasp!*), which I did not think was possible. However, when I stopped to examine myself more closely, I realized that a lot of Scarlett – like Anne – lives on in me. She taught me that women can be strong, brash even, and still be desirable; make mistakes and recover from them; march on through the difficulties that life, society, and a patriarchal system have handed her, and be ok enough to look forward to “tomorrow.”

 
4) The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Another surprise for me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. I can still, very clearly, recall my mother reading this book to us. She, through this book, provided me with a mantra (and philosophy) that has lasted a lifetime. “I think I can,” has gotten me through some of the toughest times of my life, and I am definitely a different person for it.

 
5) Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Eugene Field

Finally, this book (or, poem, I really should say), though it might surprise some that I included it, didn’t surprise me. At least not this year. I actually realized that this work belonged on my list many years ago during an undergraduate course that was partially on children’s literature. First introduced to me in an elementary school spelling book, Field’s elegant poem opened my eyes to the world of beautiful text and the power of metaphor. It helped shape the books I read thereafter, and is an important piece of the reader, writer, and editor that I am today.

 
 

Finally, because it’s really just not fair to leave them out, here are the books that didn’t make it in, but really should be up there, too:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swam by E. B. White
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Green Eggs and Ham and Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm by Robert C. O’Brien
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mother Goose
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Where the Wild Things Areby Maurice Sendak
The Wind the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
. . . and many, many, many more.

 

 
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